Arsenal midfielder makes long-awaited return to training ahead of Newcastle clash
By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
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Mikel Arteta has returned to full training as he closes in on his first-team comeback.
The veteran midfielder has trained for the whole week but might have to wait before he is selected for the matchday squad.
Arsenal take on Newcastle at Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon as they attempt to cement their position at the Premier League summit.
Arsene Wenger is short of options in central midfield and was forced to use defender Calum Chambers in that position in Monday’s win over Bournemouth after Mathieu Flamini suffered an ankle injury.
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Speaking on Wednesday, speaking before of the game against Newcastle United, Wenger said: “Arteta is back in training but is too short [of match fitness] to be selected in a competitive game.”
Arteta, who has not started a Premier League match this season, has begun preparing for his post-playing days by starting to take his coaching badges at Arsenal.
The Gunners captain, who has a chronic calf problem that is struggling to heal, is out of contract next summer, by which time he will be 34.
He has begun working with the Arsenal academy during his increasingly frequent absences from the first team.
Speaking last week, Wenger admitted that Arteta could be offered a role on the club’s coaching staff when he hangs up his boots.
“He has to go through the youth system first, but I don’t rule that out (that he could be on the coaching staff),” said Wenger.
“At the moment I don’t have a real need. Our average age is quite high on my staff. they are all good. I am happy with all my staff at the moment. But I think he can be a coach in the future, yes, and certainly here.”
On Arteta’s latest return from injury, Wenger added: ‘It is the same calf injury, but every time I take a gamble and put him back in he has a set back. So this time I was to be a little more cautious and get him to play one or two games in the reserves before he comes back and plays.’
Arteta has been available only intermittently over the last year due to a series of niggling injuries.
The most serious has been a calf complaint that has been a key factor in the Spaniard being restricted to just two starts for the club this season.
An Arsenal dressing room source told Football Insider that there are fears that Arteta’s injury is a chronic one, mainly due to wear and tear, and it will continue to bother him for the rest of the season.
Arteta is not expected to be offered an extension when it expires next summer.